As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, researching a book is a state of bliss. Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World is no exception, detailing a history of European exploration on Greenland’s ice sheet over the past couple of hundred years.
The details of various expeditions including Fridtjof Nansen’s intial crossing in 1888 and Knud Rasmussen’s establishment of Thule at the northern-most tip are fascinating as the description of scientists Georgi and Lowe spending an entire winter dug into the middle of the ice sheet.
However most interesting to me personally is the description of the Jakobshavn Glacier calving several icebergs in two days, cutting five miles from the glacier’s front, in 2015.
My first blog post, 1,790 days ago, was on Christian Marclay’s The Clock.I have posted 999 times since, each somehow related to “my writing process”. Notes on The Bachelorand Hurricane Sandydrew the most traffic. Details of my actual process attracted the least. What’s next?Another 1,000, I guess.
We hiked along the Ilulissat Ice Fjord Trail on our third day in Greenland. We wanted to go down to a bay but were warned away. I considered this perhaps an overstatement – after all there were no glaciers here and thus no real sense of danger as that captured in this well-known Greenland tsunami video – but we nonetheless heeded the posting and continued along the ridge. A small trail then led down to a secluded cove filled with fantastically delicate forms. We couldn’t resist that. I broke off a piece and tasted the frozen water – cold and clean, a tad salty – and then we climbed a small cliff.
We hadn’t even time to sit when the water suddenly surged – not a tsunami, but a swell of several feet – and crushed everything we had just photographed. (The end of which I caught on video.)It remained silent throughout – except for the swirling water and ice – as the force that could have dragged us out into the cold washed back and forth and slowly abated. We sat and thought about that.
80% of Greenland is covered by snow and ice. It is a mass so big that, if it were to melt, the oceans worldwide would rise seven meters, drowning many coastlines, while Greenland would actually rise. Ilulissat is on the west coast where many glaciers and ice flows meet the ocean, including the Ilulissat Ice Fjord and Eqi Glacier, both of which are major tourist attractions due to the melting ice.The Ilulissat Ice Fjord is densely packed with icebergs, moving gradually out to sea at a rate of 19 meters per day, producing 35 cubic kilometers of ice every year. It takes almost three hours to pass through the maze of ice by boat – a distance of 5 kilometers. The Eqi Glacier, which is retreating a rate of 15 meters per year, meets the ocean directly, with massive sheets and chunks of ice dramatically calving into the ocean several times every hour. It is a remarkable and sobering event to witness, the sound of which is reminiscent of approaching thunder or a massive door being slammed shut in an empty room.